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At 9.30am today (17 January 2013) the first House of Commons backbench business debate will be on ATOS Work Capability Assessments (member in charge: Michael Meacher, Labour, Oldham West and Royton).
The UK government’s ‘work capability assessment’ for sick and disabled people has been revealed to be blatantly unfair, and decisions are frequently overturned on appeal.
“A millionaire with a private cinematograph, all the necessary props and a troupe of intelligent actors could, if he wished, make practically all of his inner life known. He could explain the real reasons of his actions instead of telling rationalised lies, point out the things an ordinary man has to keep locked up because there are no words to express them. In general, he could make other people understand him.” So wrote George Orwell in his 1940 essay 'New Words'.
Atos, the company that conducts Work Capability Assessments (WCA) for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), is sponsoring the Paralympics. The irony of this is almost beyond words. A company causing fear and distress to countless disabled people is attempting to improve its image by associating itself with the achievements of other disabled people.
The UK government’s harsh treatment of sick and disabled people claiming welfare benefits has largely been backed by the media, with some exceptions. This has helped fuel increasing hostility to disabled people from the public. But, unusually, in late July, two prime-time television documentaries exposed the bizarre tests used to falsely find people ‘fit for work’, and the human cost to claimants and their families.